Trial for Killer of NFL Star Will Smith Begins

For three months defense attorneys in New Orleans have argued the shooting of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith was an act of self defense.

And Tuesday marks the beginning of what will decide the rest of Cardell Hayes’ life.

On Monday, Judge Camille Buras and attorneys worked into the night to select the jury that will hear the case. Hayes is accused of gunning down former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith after an argument during a traffic stop.

Police say Smith and his wife were shot on the evening of April 9 following a traffic accident in the city’s Lower Garden District.

Smith was shot in the back and side, according to a warrant read in court the following day before a magistrate set a $1 million bond for the man accused of killing him.

Police said Smith, 34, was killed in a case of road rage by a man who had rear-ended his car.

Hayes’ Humvee H2 rear-ended Smith’s Mercedes G63 around 11:30 p.m. that evening in the upscale Lower Garden District, pushing it into a Chevrolet Impala driven by two of Smith’s acquaintances. The two argued, and Hayes shot both Smith and Smith’s wife, Racquel, police said. She was taken to a hospital with a leg wound.

Opening statements began Tuesday at 10 a.m. CT. Hayes is charged with second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and aggravated criminal damage to property. Prosecutors severed a fourth charge of aggravated assault earlier in the day. The act means he still faces that charge, but could be tried on it at a later date.

“It’s not reasonable to claim self-defense when you provoked it,” Prosecutor Laura Rodrigue said in response to Hayes’ claims of self defense. “It’s not reasonable to say, ‘Things got out of hand. I had to kill somebody.'”